FRACKING licences are being handed out “like confetti” according to borough MP Andy Burnham, who has called for a delay to any shale gas plans.
The frontrunner for the Labour Party leadership said he was shocked by the amount of licenses handed out in his Leigh constituency.
And in calling for a moratorium on shale gas exploration, Mr Burnham has said stronger scientific evidence is needed to allay fears on its environmental impacts.
The Leigh MP voiced his views at a hustings for the Labour leadership hosted by the Fabian Society this weekend.
Speaking in a national newspaper, he said: “I was literally left open-mouthed two years ago when I realised there were about nine licences all over my constituency.
“Some of them are moving forward.
“These things just seem to be handed out like confetti. That made me really focus on the issue.
“In my area, we are riddled with mine shafts as a former mining area. Where is the evidence that it is safe to come and frack a place like this?
“No fracking should go ahead until we have much clearer evidence on the environmental impact.”
Several fracking licenses have been handed out across areas of Wigan borough which give energy giants exclusivity to the areas they cover.
But permission to start shale gas extraction would need to be approved by the local authority.
The Government has previously stated that communities where fracking takes place would be entitled to a share of the profits generated in the area.
Residents should have a “much bigger say” whether fracking is given the green light, Mr Burnham said.
He added: “The evidence is very, very flimsy. If we are going to carry on with fossil fuels we are basically sending a message that renewables aren’t where we want to be.
“I am pitching this as part of a pro-business, new economy move. We have got to get more serious about investment in renewables.”
In making his plea, Mr Burnham has become the most high-ranking Westminster politician to voice concern over the environmental impact. Campaigners have claimed fracking can lead to earth tremors and contamination of water supplies.